Today I’d like to chat about the importance of continuing education in the field of massage therapy. We’ll discuss state requirements, personal goals, balancing costs and travel in this new economy and how to find a good teacher offering a class that is relevant to all your needs and desires.
Need to Learn.
All states have a basic number of hours that are required for licensing purposes. This can vary from 500 hours to 1200 hours. As the industry grows it will continue to become more complex and diversified and create more options for the direction you would like your career to go in. In the state of Connecticut where I am located, the law requires…
“Graduation from a school of massage therapy offering a course of study of not less than five hundred (500) classroom hours with the instructor present and, at the time of the applicant’s graduation, held a current school code assigned by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and was either (A) accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education or by a state board of post-secondary technical trade and business schools; or (B) accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). Successful completion of the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork formerly administered by the NCTMB. Please note that the National Examination for State Licensing (NESL) examination formerly administered by the NCTMB examination does not satisfy the examination requirement.”
Each licensee applying for license renewal shall complete a minimum of 24 hours of qualifying continuing education every 4 years. The continuing education shall be in areas related to the licensee’s practice, including, but not limited to, courses offered by providers that are approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.
Every state requires this attention to our massage continuing education simply to maintain a certain level of proficiency that reflects the professionalism of our field. It really should not be construed as an inconvenience. If you see it as such, perhaps you made the wrong decision to become a massage therapist.
Desire to Learn.
When I first became a massage therapist, my focus was to eventually have a Structural Integration practice. So, much of my continuing education was geared towards that goal. I was excited to continue learning. There were particular teachers that were on my list that I wanted to learn from. It didn’t matter where in the world they lived or how much it would cost because I was on a mission to know more and more. I studied locally at small workshops and traveled to California and Colorado to study/vacation with favorite teachers. For a while, I shared office space with an Osteopath that did manual medicine. We would trade and learn from each other. The farthest I traveled was learning Thai massage, which took me to Canada, in the States and in Thailand itself.
I had this burning desire to learn, practice and share. It felt better to me to learn things because I wanted to, rather than because the State said I needed to. I felt better about having a plan in place, that allowed me to be able to afford my adventures in bodywork, rather than panicking at the last minute and trying to find a class offering 24 credits to meet my four year obligation to the state. It’s really about perspective. I support the idea of the State’s program to maintain a certain level of competency and feel it is important to have therapists that have had to demonstrate their ability to accept the responsibility that comes with the profession. When I take continuing education classes, I want to take my time and have fun while doing it.
How to Learn?
Massage continuing education is turning into a big business in itself. The resources that offer CE classes ranges from Facebook groups, local health mags like “Natural Awakenings”, CE resource websites, IASI, NCBTMB and other professional organizations offer classes that are accepted and approved to meet state requirements.
Try “Googling” massage continuing education and you get 561,000 results. It is amazing what is being offered. But, caveat emptor, not all classes are created equal. Make sure you check the teachers credentials and whether the class being offered is approved by the NCBTMB and meets the states’ requirements. Not to say you can’t take a class that isn’t. Just know that it won’t be counted towards your license renewal. I try to take an anatomy course every four years or so. The reasons being, I love anatomy and I forget things after a while. It’s good to refresh!
Also, keep in mind that taking a class is a nice way to introduce new principles or methods to your repertoire, but this does not make you an expert. It will often take five years or so to really feel like you know what you are doing. Slowly incorporating new methods into your massage is a great way to practice, observe and take note of whether it is as effective as was advertised. If it is, keep it. If not, don’t hesitate to let it go. It might not be your thing.
What I look for in a class or teacher is the effective presentation and explanation of the “principles” of the subject matter. You can teach a monkey different methods, but it takes awareness and understanding,to grasp a principle well enough so that you can create your own methods from that principle. Make sense? Feel free to comment below as this is a subject that interests me.
Support your local teachers.
The massage profession is a rapidly growing industry taking in an estimated $16 billion dollars last year. As of 2017, there were about 350,000 therapists in the United States. When I first started, there was no NCBTMB and very few rules. Teachers were few and far between. State req’s were as low as 120 hours and license fees were minimal. Now, you can find an amazing variety of modalities to specialize in with a dozen teachers for each one. Most states require the passing of the MBLEx exam and continuing education must be NCBTMB approved. License fees have jumped considerably as have the cost of training and travel.
Things have changed since my entry into this world and our approach to CE’s must change as well. Many therapists can not afford to travel and/or take the time off. What to do? If you have the ability to travel and study, all power to you. If you do not, then check your local health mags or Facebook for local classes. Facebook often has massage groups that are local to your area. You can learn about classes being taught, equipment being sold and job offerings. These groups are often a good source for recommendations for certain classes and teachers. Other professional organizations such as IASI, AMBP and the AMTA provide websites that will list local classes.
Studying with local teachers is beneficial to the local economy, takes less travel time and time out of work and helps to create community in a shared profession. It’s a great way to make our hard-earned money go further and still meet state and personal requirements for our business.
Whether you are new to massage or have been practicing since the beginning of time, it never hurts to take a class. It is an opportunity to expand your mind, make new friends and eventually you may one day be able to share what you know in your own class. Massage continuing education will continue to grow more complex as time goes by. Don’t let it intimidate you. Jump in with both feet first!
Feel free to post any comments below, as I am always interested in learning what others have experienced. Peace and be well.
What is Structural Integration Bodywork?
– Structural Integration bodywork is a hands-on approach to creating balance and awareness in one’s body. It is process-oriented work that releases tensional patterns in the structure allowing the opportunity for more efficient movement and most importantly the awareness of that free movement. Dr. Rolf felt that as a species, we had evolved as much as we could unconsciously. She felt that in order to grow more, we needed to participate in the process. Through application of the 10 series she was able to change one’s structure so dramatically, that it also changed how the client perceived the world. It is from that newly emerging awareness that Dr. Rolf felt we could move towards a greater expression of our human potential. Clients would often return for the following session exclaiming that the pain in their back or knee was gone. Dr. Rolf would say not to pay attention to that, as it is only a secondary result of the work and not your primary concern (evolution).
Who was Dr. Rolf?
Ida P. Rolf (1896-1979) was born in New York City. She attended Barnard College, graduating in 1916. She went to work for Rockefeller Institute in N.Y.C. By 1920, she received a Ph.D. in biochemistry at Columbia University and became an associate professor at Rockefeller.
She started her inquiries into the nature of connective tissue almost by accident. She began to see people who no one else could help because she believed that with yoga, stretching, and manipulation she could correct structural difficulties. As her work grew more successful she realized the need to teach her work to other practitioners and so by the late 1950’s, she developed the “formula” or “recipe” of ten sessions.
Dr. Rolf’s contributions to the field of somato-therapy include not only her use of connective tissue manipulation, but also her recognition of gravity’s effect on body structure and function. Her basic premise is that if gravity can get flowing appropriately through the body then, spontaneously, the body can heal itself. She felt that not only does structure determine function, but function also determines structure, and that any work that can favorably modify structure will improve function of the body. Her work is designed to create length through the body and to release the holding patterns so the body can return to (or in some cases, find for the first time) balance.
In the late 60’s, Fritz Perls, the father of Gestalt Psychology, invited her to visit Esalen Institute, which had recently been started by Michael Murphy on the Big Sur coast, just north of San Farancisco. She was well received and started teaching classes there. From that experience, the idea of a school with formal training was born and the Rolf Institute was eventually founded in Boulder, CO. Presently, there are over 20 schools teaching the concepts and methods of Dr. Rolf’s Structural Integration work around the world. I.A.S.I. or the International Association of Structural Integrators is an umbrella organization that was created in 2006 to bring all the schools together and create a site that could easily provide the public and potential students with information about Structural Integration. If you are curious about receiving the work or would like more info on training programs, click here.
How is it done?
A typical session is an hour or so long and is done with the client wearing underwear. A low table is used without draping. The client starts by standing in front of the practitioner so that front, sides and back can be viewed in gravity. Mental or written notes are taken on perceived patterns, rotations, client attitude, and present emotional state. The importance of being able to utilize the biopsychosocial model throughout the series is critical to achieving positive results for the client.
Client is then asked to lie down on the table and the practitioner proceeds to work in the appropriate areas. Client may be asked to stand, sit or walk several times during the session. The session will end with some movement work, work on the neck and a pelvic lift to create balance.
Each session has its own goals and the recipe itself is a relaxed guide on how to proceed in the unwinding process that typifies a Structural Integration bodywork session. For example, the first session deals with opening the chest, shoulders and hips, while the second session includes work on the feet, lower legs and back. The sessions continue, working from superficial layers to the deeper layers. The final three sessions are concerned with intergrating all that was learned from the previous sessions.
What can I expect?
It is important to remember that movement is the key to life. Movement on a gross level such as walking, running, and exercising is more apparent, but on a more subtle level we need to consider blood flow, peristalsis, cellular movement and the breath.
This work refines our awareness of how we move through space. It clarifies proprioception for us and allows a certain grace to enter our being that helps define us as human. Proprioception is the ability to know where we are in space. Using gait as a tool for paying attention, our body learns on a deeper level, the possibilities, and the potential for more refined movement.
By the end of the ten sessions, all of the movement exercises we have performed will become a choreography that makes sense to the newly freed body that you have acquired. Your body will pick and choose from the potential menu that it has been given and translate it into a smooth, fluid, efficient action. Your body will often feel lighter, more responsive or more open after each session. This new awareness of your structure and how it feels to be in this new body can cause major shifts in how you present yourself to the world and how you think and feel about your existence.
“Following my Structural Integration bodywork sessions with Rob, I found a new awareness and connection to my body that I will carry with me forever. My posture and body mechanics improved, and overall I felt ‘ brand new’. It was a profound experience that changed my life.”
L.K. Professional Model, London, England